Chapter 22: Forgiveness
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Nikola felt like his reaction had been unwarranted. Something in him begged to hold Penemue close to him. She was so good to him, his Penemue. She had forgiven him about Wei Caihong and was even walking with him towards the place where he needed to make a jade deposit. She was carrying Ryota on her back and Nikola had the magic filled sword on his own. Master Wang was walking with them, he had said that they will just get into trouble if left alone.

Then Nikola shook his head as he remembered the carnage that had become of Ryota while he had still been in his developing stage. Penemue was trying to influence him. Trying to drip poison in his ear so he would forgive her again. He would remain by her side; she wouldn’t give him a way out. But he would not love her like he used to. He wanted to say he won’t love her at all, but then he would be lying to himself.

They reached the place Wei Caihong had picked. It fit snugly against the mountain side. The workers would begin to dig into the rocks when the jade in the soil got exhausted. But that wasn’t his problem. He had not bought golden silks with this patch of land.

He took out the sword and placed it on the ground. Then he took out his water skin and begun to sing:

Mother Earth, you who give and give,

I have asked of you much and more,

But give me, mother, a treasure dear.

Bury jade deep into your soil, sweet mother.

Let it show just enough so a fool can hope,

For generations to dig and dig.

The sword melted into the earth, the emerald rolled next to Nikola’s feet and he picked it up. There was still magic in it. Just when had he made this sword and for whom? Then he stumbled on something hard and he looked down to see a jade chunk sticking out of the soil. He let a magic wave pulse into the earth. Then he groaned. The magic in the sword had been too much, the place had become the biggest jade deposit he had ever seen. Had he said something wrong? He hadn’t wanted to give Madam Wu such a bon.

“Are you done performing parlor tricks? Ryota is tired.” Said Penemue, she readjusted the child so his head was resting on her shoulders. She looked every inch a mother then and something in Nikola broke when he realized that this was not the expression of her true feelings.

“Yes, I’m done. I won’t be doing magic for quite some time and…”

“You will make me everything I want.” Said Penemue. She was still wearing his green outer robe. It reveled her naked legs. They were impossibly long and Nikola’s eyes trailed up. Then he felt a sharp pain in his head and his eyes became fixed on Penemue’s face.

“I am tired, Penemue. Bringing you back took a lot of me.” Penemue furrowed her brows and squeezed Ryota’s hand.

“I need paper and ink, I long to write something.” Nikola nodded. He had plenty of those two things inside his store. It seems like he wouldn’t have to use magic after all.

“When we get back, I will sleep in the same bed with you and Wei Caihong and then on the morning you will arrange a small, private ceremony for the three of us.” Said Penemue and Nikola just nodded again. That calmed Penemue and she went to stand by him, giving him Ryota for him to carry. He picked up his son and the little boy’s stomach grumbled. He would need to feed him soon, least he bit someone.

“We should get back now.” Said Master Wang who swayed on his feet. Nikola agreed with him. But Nikola knew that they were not going to make it into the village tonight. He had tracked Rin for a day, after all. When the sun rouse, they made camp and Nikola left Ryota with Master Wang, telling the angel to protect the child. Penemue followed him into the forest and soon they were on the trail of a heard of deer.

They were by the lake and Nikola focused the little magic he had left to make roots wrap around the biggest animal in the herd. It screamed in panic as the rest of the herd ran. He made the roots trail up and wrap around it’s neck, snapping it. The deer was only kept up by the roots, which were digging into it’s flesh. Nikola took out his sword and hacked the deer free and then picked it up and swung it over his shoulders. Normally he wouldn’t be able to carry it but he was drawing from the magic of the emerald to strengthen his limbs. Penemue poked the deer and then petted it’s pelt.

“You can make Ryota something out of this. Gloves and maybe a shirt?” Why was Penemue suddenly concerned about Ryota? And the people here didn’t wear shirts. Nikola didn’t want to stand out.

“I’ll make him gloves and a bag. Do you see any edible plants around here?” Penemue hummed and looked around. Then she stepped towards a tree and took out a mushroom. She smiled at Nikola and then she looked around for more mushrooms. Nikola could make an iron pot with the last of the magic of the emerald and a mushroom venison stew. A good warm meal would do them all good.

By the time they made it back to where they had left Master Wang and Ryota there was a campfire going on and Penemue’s arms were filled with mushrooms and grasses. Depositing their bounty by the fire Nikola unsheathed his sword and begun to carve up the deer as Penemue used her magic to create a small knife so she could cut up the mushrooms and herbs.

A pot soon found it’s way on a branch over the fire and Master Wang was send with another one to collect water from the lake.

“Can I have some meat, Pa?” Asked Ryota as he eyed the raw venison hungrily.

“You’ll just have to wait until it’s cooked. It won’t be long now and it will be tastier when done.”

“Oh, just give him a chunk. He is a kitsune. It won’t harm his stomach.” Chided Penemue as she finished cutting up the mushrooms. Reluctantly Nikola cut off one tender chunk of meat and handed it to Ryota who bit off from it and begun to chew as blood dripped into his hands.

“What a mess.” Said Penemue as she cut off a piece of her robe and handed it to Ryota. “Wipe your hands with this and then wrap your meat in it.” She said sternly and Ryota did so. He soon ate the meat and stared at the carcass for more.

“Pa, I’m still hungry.” Said the boy as he neared the already cut up chunks of meat. He snatched one and quickly popped it into his mouth, smiling as he chewed. Nikola sighed and dumped the meat into the pot and Penemue did the same with the mushrooms and herbs.

“Why are you ruining the meat by putting it into the water?” Asked Ryota. He remembered eating roasted meat on a stick before. There had been a woman who made it for him. But he couldn’t remember her. Why did he feel so sad when he thought about her?

“We are not ruining it. We are cooking it. Go and play.” Commanded Penemue and Ryota looked at her strangely.

“Play? What is that?” He asked and both of his parents looked at him. Penemue with a frown and Nikola with sadness.

“It’s when you amuse yourself, Ryota. Do you want to draw in mud? Make a palace with branches? Or a tree house? Your mother can look after the meal, let us go and play, son.” Nikola went to pick up Ryota and he carried him a little to the side. Then he proceeded to break branches and leaves from a tree and to stack them down. Ryota looked at them but didn’t understand what was so fun about branches. Then Nikola, seeing that his son wasn’t even touching them, bend down and he begun to stack them in a square.

“We can make a house. I have one in the village. There lives my husband, Wei Caihong and our son Wei Zhaohui as well as my two charges, the Han siblings and your grandnephew Bjorn together with his husband Azazel. But we call him Basil. You have to remember not to slip up and call him in a different way, Ryota.”

He weaved the leaves between the sticks and soon there was a small green house. Ryota poked it and then he took a branch and smashed it into one of the house’s walls. It collapsed and Nikola took the branch away from his son.

“Why did you do this, Ryota? Wasn’t it fun to build?” He was worried for his son then. Kitsunes were demons. What if he couldn’t overcome Ryota’s destructive nature? What if he had to seal away his own son beneath a mountain? He had to turn him into a human as soon as possible. But for that he would need to pass the curse onto someone else.

“That’s what I do to houses. I smash them. Caves are better to live in.” Ryota had lived for three hundred years. In this time, he could have destroyed many a settlement. And Rin must have encouraged him so she wouldn’t have to hunt for him.

“Well, you are to no longer do so. From now on you will create and preserve, never destroy.”

“You killed the bad woman back in the cave.” Said Ryota and Nikola flicked him on the nose to which the boy bared his teeth at him.

“That was in self-defense. But you won’t need to defend yourself from anyone. You are just a little boy. Everyone will love you.” He tried to sound reassuring but Ryota just scoffed at him.

“People scream when they see me turn into a fox.” Nikola remembered the massive bulk of the fox he had seen back in the cave and couldn’t blame them.

“Then you won’t turn into one anymore.” The boy responded by throwing a tantrum and Penemue had to come over and bend him over her knee and spank him. Nikola watched and made a move to stop her but she rooted him on the spot with a glare. She could tell Ryota the truth at any time. And that was something Nikola feared. Master Wang came back with more water and Ryota ran behind him to hide.

“Ma is mean.” He said simply and Master Wang barked a laugh.

“Do you want to come hunting with me, boy? I saw some ducks in the lake. I’ll let you eat them raw.”

The boy perked up at that and followed Master Wang back to the lake. Penemue and Nikola were left alone with the pot between them. Nikola stood up to stir it and Penemue cleared her throat.

“You think me cruel.” She spoke. She could still see the torn expression on Nikola’s face as she was disciplining their son.

“I think you are a stranger to me now, Penemue. Perhaps you always were.”

Penemue stood up and went to hug Nikola from behind. She was still two meters high so she easily rested her head on top of his.

“I have always loved you. But I wanted for you to keep your illusions. I see I was wrong to do so now.”

“Can you make me forget?” Nikola was ready to beg, if he had to. He missed being in love with Penemue. The feelings he had now were muted at best.

“I refuse. You will love me for who I am from now on. Not the image of me you’ve created inside your head.”

“And whose fault it is that I have such a false image about you?” Said Nikola. His shoulders were tense and his fists were clanged.

“Mine.” Admitted Penemue. He stepped back but she reached out and grabbed his hand. “We share a thousand years of history, my Emerald. No one will ever compare to me in your eyes.”

And it was the truth, no matter how Nikola didn’t want to admit it. They heard rustling from a bush and turned around as one to see Ryota running towards them with a duck in his mouth.

“Come back, you little menace!” Screamed Master Wang as he chased after the child. “I told you that you can’t take the first one.”

Ryota hid behind Penemue and removed the duck from his mouth, spitting out feathers.

“You spooked all the rest, uncle!” He yelled. Master Wang reached out towards Ryota but Nikola gripped his hand.

“Just let him have the duck. There is plenty of venison to go around.”

“And I caught it! Then he spooked the rest because he was yelling at me to turn back into a human.” Yelled Ryota and birds begun to vacate the area. Nikola froze and then turned around.

“You turned into a fox?” He had drained him of magic. How had he gotten it back so soon? Ryota grinned and dropped the duck and then turned into a small black fox. Not an adult size but not a kit either. Penemue bend down and picked their son up and begun petting his fur as he begun to let out something like a purr.

“Aha!” Exclaimed Master Wang. He had used the confusion to move behind the family and snatch the duck. He leaped back and waved his prize. Ryota let out a whine and he jumped out of Penemue’s hands and still as a fox he charged at Master Wang who responded by climbing up a tree. Ryota begun to dig in the base.

“You’ll be digging until next new year, boy. The duck is mine.” Then Ryota let out a roar, which sounded childish in this form and he threw himself at the tree. Nikola went to retrieve his son before he hurt himself. Master Wang begun plucking the duck and making chewing noises which were responded by Ryota’s whining. Nikola couldn’t help himself. He laughed. It was a good, heartly sound and it made his sides hurt.

Ryota stilled in his arms and hung low like a sack. His ears were folded back and he looked at the ground. Nikola, still laughing, put Ryota at eye level and begun to pet him on his neck. The fox begun to purr again and Nikola hugged him to himself and spun around. He ended up face to face with Penemue who was staring at him with adoration in her sapphire eyes.

Ryota, little traitor that he was, grabbed Penemue’s robe with his teeth and tugged until his parents were nose to nose. Then the fox growled and begun to chew at the silk. Penemue wrapped her hands around Nikola’s neck and brought him in for a kiss. The fox finally let go of her robe and begun to make laughing noises, which were strange for a fox to make. Then he begun to tickle both of his parents with his tail.

The three laughed and hugged each other closer. Penemue took Ryota from Nikola’s hands and the fox begun to nuzzle into her bosom.

“You are too old for this.” Said Penemue as she tugged her son’s ear. She then leaned into Nikola and he wrapped his arms around her. Then Ryota did a strange hiccup and he grew in size and grew another tail. “You have to drain him again. Maybe make something he could wear until he becomes more human?” Said Penemue as she readjusted her grip on the giant fox in her arms. It was the size of child Ryota and just as heavy. Another tail appeared and Penemue had to put down Ryota as he grew in size again. He was running towards the tree where Master Wang was hiding like an arrow. He jumped against it and the tree cracked.

Ryota did something between a yelp and a growl and rushed towards the tree again. Nikola ran out to him and gripped his fur and begun to drain him. Ryota became smaller and smaller until he was a kit. He placed a paw over the tree’s bark and looked up towards Master Wang who had broken up a wing from the duck. Then his little tail begun to wag as Master Wang pretended to throw the wing. Ryota was running towards the place where he thought he saw the wing fly before Nikola could get a good grip on him.

“Must you tease him?” Asked Nikola, staring at the grinning man up on the tree.

“I was just playing. He has the mentality of a house pet, father. So, I am treating him as such. I saw the scattered branches, you tried to play with him too, didn’t you? Here, catch and let him chase you.” Said Master Wang as he dropped the wing into Nikola’s hands. Ryota saw this and ran to his father who begun to dangle the wing just out of reach while running in circles around the pot.

Then, on a whim, Nikola threw the wing towards Penemue who caught it. Ryota stilled and petted the earth with his front paw. Then he moved towards his mother as if he was a spoiled cat in truth. When he reached her, he sat at her feet on his back legs and extended a paw up. Penemue smiled and reached out to shake the paw. Then she placed the wing on Ryota’s snout and held a finger.

“Hold.” She said and Ryota whined. His tail was wagging at the prospective treat. “Ryota, spin around.”

Ryota did so, careful to keep the wing balanced on his snout.

“Ryota give me a kiss.” Said Penemue as she knelt in front of the fox kit. It was adorable how Ryota stood up on his back legs while balancing the wing and he licked Penemue’s face three times. Penemue reached out to scratch him behind the ears and then she pointed down.

“Sit down, son.” She said and Ryota looked like he couldn’t contain himself any more. “Now you can eat.” Like lightning with one swift movement the wing was in Ryota’s mouth and he was crunching at it happily. He grew in size again and Nikola sighed and went to drain him. He would need to make big rituals to last Ryota more time. He looked around the forest. There were few fruit baring trees around. He could grow more with Ryota’s magic. Rin had been three meters high when she had five tails. He would just need to wait for Ryota to have them too. A fourth tail appeared on Ryota and he grew again. This wasn’t right. Why was he as big as Rin had been with one tail less? He went and touched his son and then channeled his magic into the forest.

Bushes with ripe barriers appeared. And wild apple trees and peaches and cherry trees. Only the apples were rich in fruit, them being still in season. Then he focused some more and made mushrooms sprout at the base of every tree and flowers and then pumpkins and vines rich with grapes which climbed up the trees. All this time Ryota grew smaller and smaller until the forest around them was filled with feasting animals and looked like a chaotic garden.

Ryota finally turned into a boy and stared at the plants around him in wonder.

“What are those?” He said pointing at a pumpkin patch. Nikola went and cut one. He would bake a pumpkin for his family. It was a pity he didn’t have any honey on hand.

“A pumpkin.” Said Penemue when she saw that Nikola was busy creating another pot and carving up the pumpkin. “We will eat it for dessert.”

“What is a dessert, Ma?” Both parents turned to look at their child. Had Rin fed their child just uncooked men?

“It’s sweet food that is eaten after the meal.” Supplied Penemue and she placed Ryota in her lap. “You look so much like me, little fox.” She said and there was guilt written all over her face. She then hugged the boy closely to herself and inhaled his scent. Ryota giggled at his mother’s antics. Nikola watched with bated breath and hoped nothing will happen. When Penemue finally released Ryota there were tears in her eyes.

“I am sorry for hurting you, my son. My dear jade.” Nikola had heard Penemue apologizing so rarely that it came as a shock to him. But she meant it, the angel could never fake her sadness.

“I forgive you for spanking me, Ma. You didn’t hit that hard.” Said Ryota and then Penemue let out a sob.

“Not for that. Before you were even born I…”

“Don’t say it.” Said Nikola. Ryota didn’t need to know about what Penemue did to him just as he didn’t need to know about Nikola killing Rin. “Let’s keep our secrets and strive to be happy from now on, my love.” The last two words had slipped out of his mouth without him even realizing it. But Penemue was still his love, just not his only.

“Am I still?” Asked Penemue as she picked up their son and moved closer to Nikola. “Can you still love a monster like me?”

“You are and will always be an angel in my eyes.” Said Nikola. And he knew now, from what had happened between Azazel and Bjorn, that angels were a bunch of bastards. And now that he had his memories back, he knew he was right.

“You say it like it is a curse word.” And it seems like Penemue had caught up on the fact.

“The days when I thought you were holy are long gone, my love.” A part of Nikola died when he realized he was not simply trying to hurt Penemue but saying the truth.

“But you are mine.”

“But I am yours.”

They stared at each other and Ryota looked at them in confusion. His parents were so weird. The woman with whom he was before had been so much simpler. Had he been with someone before, or had he lived alone? He yawned as the last memories of Rin left him and he fell asleep in Penemue’s arms.

Master Wang jumped out of the tree finally and went to the stew pot. He took it off the fire after a single look and turned towards Nikola and Penemue.

“You two will forgive, but not forget. You have a kid tying you together. But how is my future mother going to take in all of this is going to be amusing to watch. We need bowls and spoons, father. And do you mind making some juice from all those apples you just grew?”

Nikola sighed, why was everyone using him as a craftsman and a chef? He was fairly sure Master Wang could make his own juice. But he went to Ryota’s side and borrowed the magic he had managed to regenerate. It was frightening how fast he did so. Then he placed the pot with the pumpkin in the fire and then placed a lid on top of it and some still burning wood pieces on top of the lid. Then he went to the nearest tree that was heavy with fruit and begun to pick apples, placing them in a sack he conjured from the air. He had a secret room in India full of sacks in a golden temple. Some were full of treasures and others were empty, ready to be summoned. He did his best not to take someone else’s sack like the other people to whom he had thought the spell did.

The sun set and they were all around the fire enjoying the baked pumpkin after having eaten the stew and drank the juice. Ryota ended up liking cooked food and he kept eyeing the duck which was roasting on a stick over the fire. The boy ate a lot and Nikola wondered where he put it, seeing as his gut hadn’t regrown to it’s former size.

They laid down for the night after that. With Ryota between Nikola and Penemue and Master Wang keeping watch. All throughout the night animals kept coming to their camp to eat the abundant fruit which grew back as soon as they were eaten. Nikola achieved this by channeling Ryota’s magic into the soil all throughout the night. When they woke there were no animals around and there was a deer roasting over the fire and Master Wang was spinning it.

Ryota looked at the deer and he moved to try and get some meat but Master Wang picked him up and tugged at his ear.

“It’s not ready. Why don’t you herd your parents towards the lake so that you all can get a bath?”

“And I can get some meat afterwards?” Asked Ryota hopefully and Master Wang pointed at a section of the meat that was nearly done.

“This whole area will be for you, kid. Now, off to the lake.”

Ryota jumped up and then made his parents rise up and then he pushed them towards the lake, talking their ears off about how they were going to eat juicy meat afterwards and apples and berries and all kinds of things he had never had before.

Once in the lake Penemue was quick to disrobe and move deeper. Ryota swam to her and Nikola looked at the sight. She was so beautiful. The very picture of a mother. But Wei Caihong appeared before his eyes then, in his female form. Wei Caihong had lied to him but it was a small misunderstand compared to what Penemue had done to him. And he was going to hurt his husband again by forcing him to share him with Penemue.

It wasn’t fair to his soulmate. But Penemue was more powerful magically than Nikola. She would force her way in if she wasn’t let in. Nikola had made his bed and now he was going to lay in it. He entered the lake and went to his family. Ryota was splashing water at Penemue who was washing herself without seeming to be bothered by the action. She made a motion with her finger for Nikola to turn around and he complied.

Hands were on his back, massaging out the kinks he had gotten from sleeping on the hard ground.

“Do you remember after we just met?” Said Penemue next to his ear. She kissed his earlobe and he shuddered. “There was a pool in the temple of Tangra and I took you inside of it. I wanted you to renounce my brother who did nothing for you and you defiled his holy water with our seed. He stopped coming to Atlantis after that, didn’t he?”

“He did.” Nikola had stood like a naughty child as his parents scolded him for the absence of the deity. But he had not cared one bit. It had been Penemue who had offered help in their time of need, not Tangra. “How did you know to listen in on my prayer that day?”

“I have been watching you since you were born.” Nails scratched at Nikola’s back but didn’t break his skin. He turned around and brought her closer to himself.

“But why? Why me, my love?”

Penemue looked down at his chest at that and bit her lip. She had known all this would happen. That’s why she had flown into the Abyss willingly after her failed attempt to rein in her son’s temper. She had seen everything and there was one more thing she needed to do. One last hurt she needed to inflict into Nikola’s already damaged heart.

“I knew you would eat a phoenix. As long as my soul is within you, I am as immortal as you are. That was my reason in the beginning. But now…”

“Ryota, get back to Master Wang.” Said Nikola as he gripped her tighter.

“But Pa…”

“Ryota!” The boy swam to the shore and turned into a two tailed fox. Nikola would deal with this later.

“I want to show you that the future can be rewritten.” He said as he begun swimming towards the shore with Penemue in his arms. “You are meant to carry Wei Caihong’s child before you carry my own. But I know a nice little fertility spell and you will give me a set of triplets, just like Wei Caihong will.”

“And if I refuse?” Penemue was gripping him for dear life. Her skin was a lovely rosy hue. They crawled backwards on the fine pebbles on the beach and Nikola bit down on Penemue’s collarbone gently and positioned himself so he could show her how her loveliness was making him go wild.

“You won’t.” And just because he was owed a little revenge, he entered her then, without preparing her at all. He kissed every patch of her skin that was within reach as he begun to rock them and say the spells in his mind, both the fertility one and the multiplication one. Mixing them together like their bodies mixed. When he came Penemue’s legs were wrapped around him and she was petting the side of his face gently.

“Why couldn’t you have always been like this? Gentle yet hard. Good yet bad. Why did you always tried to be so perfect all the time?” Asked Penemue breathlessly and Nikola leaned down to kiss her lips. When he was done, he murmured against them.

“I tried to be the best man that I could be for you. Maria liked my goodness but you are twisted, my love. And so, you will receive what you have given me. Do you feel loved now?”   

“Yes.” Breathed Penemue against him as she captured his lips for another kiss. “No more lies, love me truthfully and I will do the same. Even if I end up hurting you.”

Nikola pulled himself out of her then and stared down. He knew that Penemue’s vessel was a virgin but the proof was coloring his cock. He pressed his hand over her stomach and smirked.

“Triplets. Three sons.”

Penemue hit him over the head and went back into the lake to wash his cum from her tights. Nikola didn’t know why she bothered. He planned to have a repeat of their pool trust in this very lake.